Monday, January 26, 2009

News That Matters - January 26, 2009

News That Matters
Brought to you by PlanPutnam.Org

"In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress."  - John Adams

Good Monday Morning,

It was supposed to be cold yesterday morning but not -3.8º! A week ago on Saturday morning the temp was -3.6º That's two weekends in a row the temperatures dropped below 0º and this morning it was 1.8º. This has been a very cold January and there's no relief in sight. And as of this morning we're looking at the potential of 8-12 inches of snow from tomorrow night into Wednesday. Or rain. Or a 1-3 inches of snow followed by freezing rain. The NWS can't be sure. I hope the crocuses have packed their parkas.

For the past two weekends I've been engaged in a most wonderful experience with the Pied Piper Children's Theater, an educational theater group that has taken over the White Pond Center and is run by John Ryerson and Bonnie Halligan of Lake Carmel.

The Pied Piper Children's Theater offers an intensive after-school program for kids aged from 3-16 in performance, acting and even a Friday night Karaoke in their "Kids Lounge". I ran tech at the just completed run of Grease! which used two casts over two weekends with the Theater selling out for each of its 6 performances. Learn more about this community program here at their website. Coming up this weekend is Peter Pan using their youngest members and students. Beginning in February they'll be casting for their next major performance and when you contact them tell them I sent ya.

Photo courtesy of JDSAVAGE productions.

Here's another take on the story about Southeast and their past wetlands Inspector, Don Cuomo. It's been in the news of late and there's been lots of chatter to go along with it.

When we use the words "crimes against wetlands" and "Southeast" in the same sentence, no one even bats an eye, blinks or 'harummphs' for they know the two go together. Oh, it's not for lack of trying! The Town first has to overcome a negative declaration from their own wetlands inspector in order to reach that lofty goal and they do so with casual ease.

But why go through the hassle of disappointing the experts when you can just get rid of them? That's exactly what Southeast has done: fire their wetlands inspector, Don Cuomo and hire a quisling in his place. The other night the board voted 3-2 to do just that: cancel their contract with Mr. Cuomo and hire Stephen Coleman instead. Mr. Coleman is an environmental coordinator for the Town of New Castle.

Here is a rough sketch of what appeared to have happened prior:

The vote to not to renew Mr. Cuomo's contract was 3-2 with Councilmen Rights and Yee voting to keep him on and Honeck, Johnson and Gross voting to appoint Mr. Coleman.

As some might understand it, Mr. Rights and Mr. Yee were actually going to vote against the re-appointment in exchange for Mr. Gross' vote to replace the Town's planner. When Messers. Johnson and Honeck became aware of this deal, they cut a new deal with Mr. Gross to keep the planner - if they would vote Mr. Cuomo out.

See, in April of 2004, a single lot residence in the Salmons Daily Brook subdivision, owned by Ross Alan and quite near the home of Councilman Gross, was presented to the Conservation Commission (CC). The project had not filed for a wetlands permit and came to the CC because the County Board of Health, seeing water on site, asked for a wetlands review. In visiting the site Mr. Cuomo, then a volunteer on the town's CC, found the same wetlands the county had found. The applicant was asked by the CC to apply for a wetland permit and delineate the controlled areas. Upon this notification the applicant stopped pursuing the project.

In March of 2005, it became apparent that Mr. Alan - or someone - had filled in the onsite wetlands. The violation was brought to the attention of the serving wetlands inspector who asked Mr. Alan to cut the crap. No fines were levied, no remediation mandated and no removal of fill materials were required. In February 2006, a neighboring property owner informed the Conservation Commission that his basement had started to flood since the fill was placed.

The town then ordered the fill removed. (Just kidding. They did nothing.)

Enter Don Cuomo, the Town's new Wetlands Inspector.

The project came back to the Planning Board in October of 2007, while Mr. Cuomo was the Wetlands Inspector. Site visits revealed that the now filled in wetlands were re-emerging as wetlands. The applicant's wetlands professionals confirmed this fact. Mr. Cuomo requested they re-visit the site the following spring (2008) to re-evaluate the extent of the "new" wetlands and the project has not been heard from since.

Now that Mr. Cuomo is out of the picture the project is back before the planning board. And now also, with Mr. Cuomo's departure, how easy do you think it will be for Harold Lepler's massive Route 22 project to move forward and across the wetlands it needs to cross? Is there a connection here?

And now, the News:

  1. A Good Tool To Stop Sprawl
  2. Earthship Trooper
  3. Officials from Putnam, Southeast weigh joint landfill cleanup plan
  4. Making trains and buses more energy efficient
  5. Salazar to Consider 'Liberty' Crown Reopening
  6. Homeless man gets 15 years for stealing $100

A Good Tool To Stop Sprawl

'Granny Flats' • Apartments add vitality, density

January 26, 2009

To counter the wasteful patterns of development that threaten Connecticut's air, energy and scenery, we need to encourage people to use less land and do less driving. One of the easiest and least expensive ways to achieve that goal is to allow owners of single-family homes to add accessory apartments, also known as granny flats or mother-in-law apartments.

These small upstairs or backyard units, with space for one or two people, were common in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but were banned by many 20th-century zoning codes. Efforts to legalize them have sometimes drawn opposition from neighbors worried about undesirable renters or parking problems.

Newington is considering a zoning regulation that would allow single rental apartments in neighborhoods zoned for single-family homes. It's a good idea. Properly regulated for such things as size, exterior appearance, parking and owner occupancy, there is little downside.

Read More

Earthship Trooper

By: Michael Haederle

The speed limit posted on the rutted dirt road that winds through the Greater World subdivision is 20 mph, but Michael Reynolds is easily doing twice that as he rides his knobby-tired Yamaha TT500 bike to the job site, his white mane flowing in the slipstream. He pulls up next to a strange-looking structure with curving walls and a row of big, south-facing windows and leads me in the door. The rooms are set side by side, with glass-covered front walls opening onto a corridor running the length of the building. The result is a double greenhouse that captures sunlight pouring in through the windows. Although the June sun is already glaring over the vast mesa outside Taos, N.M., the smooth, mud-plastered walls inside the half-finished building are cool to the touch. "It makes the space that you hang out in 65 to 75 degrees year-round, with no fuel," Reynolds says. That's how it's supposed to be in an Earthship, the self-sustaining dwelling Reynolds has been refining over the past 35 years.

"This is our latest model," Reynolds says. "It'll probably work better than anything we've done." Earthships have earned the 63-year-old renegade architect some attention over the years, much of it from cable television shows marveling at their novel construction. Reynolds builds exterior and interior walls from discarded tires, "steel-belted, rubber-encased bricks" packed tightly with soil. This creates mass that absorbs heat from the sun in the winter but keeps a cool, steady temperature in the summer. Multi-hued glass bottles used as building blocks in bathroom walls admit a jewellike pattern of light, while a honeycomb of aluminum cans and plastic bottles bulks up exterior walls that are later covered with stucco.

Read More

Officials from Putnam, Southeast weigh joint landfill cleanup plan

Susan Elan and Marcela Rojas
The Journal News

Putnam County and Southeast officials are weighing a joint cleanup plan that could resolve environmental headaches each face.

During the summer, the state Department of Environmental Conservation ordered "proper closure" of Putnam's long-unused, 4-acre landfill off Old Route 6.

Southeast has been under a state order for years to cap its 13-acre landfill on Lower Mine Road. To do so, the town needs to add about 50,000 cubic yards of material before a membrane, or impervious covering, can be placed over the landfill, Southeast Councilman Paul Johnson said.

The Southeast Town Board discussed a combined county-town approach to the landfill closures at its Thursday meeting.

Read More

Henry Hudson’s View of New York: When Trees Tipped the Sky


What F. Scott Fitzgerald called the “fresh, green breast of the New World” that greeted Henry Hudson 400 years ago has been reimagined by a senior ecologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Drawing on 18th-century British military maps, the ecologist, Eric W. Sanderson, has painstakingly recreated Manhattan’s rolling landscape — Mannahatta in an American Indian dialect meant “island of many hills,” many of which were all but leveled when the street grid was imposed in the 19th century — that Hudson encountered.

In his coming book, “Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City,” Mr. Sanderson evocatively describes “the old-growth forests, stately wetlands, glittering streams, teeming waters, rolling hills, abundant wildlife and mysterious people.” All in all, a scene hard to reconcile with the contemporary landscape dominated by glass, concrete and asphalt.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is to join Mayor Job Cohen of Amsterdam and other Dutch officials this week in heralding the quadricentennial of Hudson’s voyage of discovery up his eponymous river.

It was 400 years ago this month that Hudson and Dutch merchants negotiated a contract that, it could be argued, would change the face of New York and point America toward the ethnic and racial diversity now personified by President Obama.

Read More

Making trains and buses more energy efficient

I'm looking at a report that says the New York City area's subways and trains could be run partly on wind power in the future, and I'm resisting the temptation to doodle a train with a big sail on top.

What it really means, of course, is that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority might get some of its energy from windmills floating far off shore in the coming years. It's part of the MTA's sustainability report, which proposes that the transit giant find ways to pull 80 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2050.

That's a tall order for the vast network of subway lines, commuter trains and buses plus nine bridges and tunnels. But MTA leaders say it can be done. One idea is to join with other entities, like the New York Power Authority, in looking for an off-shore wind farm capable of producing 1,500 megawatts of energy. With its substantial need for power, the MTA would serve as a catalyst for such a project, said Ernest Tollerson, director of policy and media relations.

"We'd be a reliable source of supply, which would also help the entity building the wind farm line up the financing," Tollerson said.

Read More

Salazar to Consider 'Liberty' Crown Reopening

NEW YORK (AP)  -- Newly confirmed Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar chose the Statue of Liberty to make his first official public appearance outside Washington, and local lawmakers hope the symbolic act will lead to the reopening of part of the iconic monument.

Steve Sandberg Reports

More than seven years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Statue of Liberty's crown and the circular stairway leading up to it remain closed to the public due to safety concerns.
After a climb up those 168 stairs to the crown on Friday that he described as a ``thrilling, emotional experience,'' Salazar sounded an optimistic, if measured, tone.

Read More

Homeless man gets 15 years for stealing $100

Roy Brown, 54, robbed the Capital One bank in Shreveport, Louisiana in December 2007. He approached the teller with one of his hands under his jacket and told her that it was a robbery.

The teller handed Brown three stacks of bill but he only took a single $100 bill and returned the remaining money back to her. He said that he was homeless and hungry and left the bank.

The next day he surrendered to the police voluntarily and told them that his mother didn’t raise him that way.

Brown told the police he needed the money to stay at the detox center and had no other place to stay and was hungry.

In Caddo District Court, he pleaded guilty. The judge sentenced him to 15 years in prison for first degree robbery.

Read More

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